The Hate U Give

Tupac Shakur, the iconic nineties rapper, made popular the acrostic THUG LIFE which was tattooed across his torso. It stands for The Hate You Give Little Infants *expletive* Everybody. Tupac explained, “What you feed us as seeds, grows and blows up in your face.”

(Spoiler Alerts – I discuss the plot but don’t give away the ending – proceed with caution.)

The message inspired the young adult novel The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, the story behind the recent movie by the same title. It’s about a young girl named Starr (the name Tupac said he would have given his daughter if he had one) who lives in the fictional neighborhood of Garden Heights but attends a mostly white school in another neighborhood. The film highlights how Starr takes on separate personas when at home and when at school. But when her childhood friend Khalil is killed by a police officer she has to decide how to best take a stand while straddling the two worlds.

When Starr and Khalil are pulled over for a routine traffic stop, the officer thinks Khalil’s hairbrush is a gun and fires four shots taking the young man’s life. Starr is handcuffed and seated on the pavement next to Khalil as she begs the officer to help him while she watches him bleed to death.

Starr’s choice is really three-fold as it involves (1) speaking out regarding the injustice of an unwarranted shooting of her friend, (2) challenging a local drug dealer who wants her to keep silent to prevent further police involvement, and (3) casting off her school persona to live authentically as the same person at both home and school.

I won’t give away any more details of the movie, but I did want to write a short post with some quick takeaway thoughts. I teach in a university where I’m in the majority culture. I’ve never lived or worked in a setting where I have been a member of the minority culture. In other words, it can be difficult for me to identify with and understand the minority perspective. I want to. But I need to first say that it doesn’t come naturally. But Christian love should compel me to do what doesn’t come naturally and what isn’t easy or comfortable.

A movie like this brings me face to face with the privilege I’ve experienced, and still experience now. Some will take issue with me even stating this. Why? We should carefully and compassionately consider the perspective and experience of others for all kinds of reasons. Here are just a few:

First, as Christians we should care deeply about the experience of others, since we are called to consider others as better than ourselves (Philippians 2:3). How can we do that if we ignore or deny the lived experience of others? Second, the Bible doesn’t gloss over the real struggles of others in speaking of Christian relationships (Galatians 2). We shouldn’t either. Third, we as Christians should lead the charge on issues of injustice, reconciliation, and unity (Colossians 3:13). This is impossible if we refuse to stop and listen to things that may make us feel uncomfortable, or if we are unwilling to face realities that challenge the treasured status quo.

The movie is rated PG13 due to intense scenes and language, so caution is in order. However, I do think it’s an important film for any Christian adult wanting to better understand perspectives beyond movements like Black Lives Matter that inspired both the book and movie. And just a tip, if you are trying to understand another perspective, it means you can’t filter another’s story through your own interpretation of their story. Let them speak.

Let’s be quick to listen. Let’s be slow to speak. And let’s be eager to love. (James 1:19, 1 Corinthians 13)